Domestic abuse among athletes has become rampant lately, whether it’s the Ray Rice attack case or the recent multiple claims against Cristiano Ronaldo for rape, as fans, we’ve come to expect a higher standard of morality from our idolized sports figures. But the NHL for many reasons, has been able to stay out of the mire of domestic abuse cases since professional hockey players have mostly demonstrated respectable behavior toward women and minorities. Or so we thought…
The Slava Voynov case in Los Angeles from a few years, where the star Russian athlete was charged with domestic violence against his spouse, broke open the league to the dark world of spousal abuse and caused waves among fans and players alike. Since he was a foreigner and new to North America, many wrote off the incident to cultural differences, but their innocence had been lost.
In July 2015, at the Los Angeles Superior Court Voynov pleaded no contest to the charges of corporal injury to a spouse. Reports claimed that Voynov choked his wife, pushed her to the ground, kicked her and shoved her into the corner of a flat-screen TV. He got a 90-day jail sentence, and three years probation, but he only served two months of it before taking off to Russia. The Los Angeles Kings immediately voided his five-year contract and he lost out on $25 million US.
The NHL had to take a stance too, so they suspended Voynov indefinitely, without the charges even being laid. That move was a strong sign from the league that they wouldn’t tolerate this kind of behavior and that violence against women and others, would not be allowed in their ranks. They recognized they had a social responsibility and had to set the tone for the next generation of young men and women they had influence over. The NHL was applauded for their reaction and became the stellar example to follow in the world of professional sports. They succeeded where leagues like the NFL, NBA, or MLB had miserably failed.
But how much difference a few years make…
Last month, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told media that they had begun a formal investigation into Voynov’s domestic-abuse conviction, to see if it’s possible if he can return to the NHL or not.
“There were discussions over the course of the summer, including an in-person meeting the player had with Gary (Bettman) where the process started, but not in a formal way. There were some discussions over the parameters by which he could potentially return, but they didn’t prove fruitful. So we are now engaged in an investigation,” Daly told media.
This comes at a strange time when another domestic abuse case has marred the NHL’s golden reputation. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson’s who recently pleaded no-contest to misdemeanor assault for reportedly taking swipes at his girlfriend was punished by the league in a ruling announced before training camp, that he would be suspended for 27-games. But only a few days ago it was reduced to 18 games on appeal by the athlete and the NHLPA. Independent arbitrator Shyam Das cut nine games off the suspension basically castrating the initial punishment dished out by Bettman.
What’s the point of punishing someone and taking 27 games away from them, if they can just appeal and get back a third of the games lost? It’s the disgusting that the league allows this kind of appeal to take place, or that the NHLPA thinks it’s alright to walk into such a discussion supporting an admitted abuser. No matter what excuses are made later, an assault took place and a verdict was made. What message does this give to young people and young men especially who idolize these NHLers? That it’s OK to rough up your partner a little bit, you’ll get a slap on the hand and embarrassed, but mostly you’ll get away with it. What happened to a zero-tolerance policy against violence? Why doesn’t the NHL just commit to a policy against domestic abuse like the other big leagues have? They are currently the only professional sports league without a clear policy of consequences.
It’s a man’s sport, run by men, and geared toward men. It’s no surprise that women and minorities get left out in the cold and that sexism and racism continue to proliferate in professional sports. Just because they’re pro athletes that entertain us, and are the center of most grown men’s envy, does not mean we need to forget what they are; privileged, rich (mostly white) men, who get an easy ride compared to average citizen to commits the same offence. And an offence it is! It’s 2018, and despite the #metoo movement this crap keeps on happening, and the sports bureaucracies keep letting it slide.
What the NHL and NHLPA are telling us, female and minority fans, is that roughing us up a little is only a 2-minute minor penalty, where as in reality it should be a game misconduct, a match penalty and automatic ejection!
Tell Lady Puck what you think in the comments…